Image by Tak Toyoshima
We would say it is that time of year again, but when it comes to people in Boston hollering because they don’t like how municipal gatekeepers are operating, the “movement” is perpetual. Last time we compiled a compendium of upcoming protest activity, our sources foreshadowed the bulk of demonstrations that were to follow for months. It didn’t take Nostradamus to predict that lefties from around the Hub would stick their picket signs inside the spokes and dreams of Boston 2024’s embarrassingly desperate try cycle, but in speaking with our friends on the front lines again, we asked where all of that Olympic energy is now being displaced …
THE ART OF CLASS WAR
About that never-ending battle over wage and wealth disparity … the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Massachusetts State Council—kind of like the Voltron amalgam of the union’s various Bay State labor forces—is fighting via Raise Up Massachusetts to push a popularly nicknamed “millionaire’s tax” that would “create an additional tax of four percentage points (above the current roughly 5 percent) on annual income above one million dollars.”
Before you fill your SUV with bags of cash and flee the Commonwealth for New Hampshire, consider that even after signatures are gathered in the current round of qualification, it’s a long road to amending the state constitution, which such a tax adjustment would require. Also consider that this is a sensible move; as per language in the petition: “new revenue generated by this tax could only be spent on quality public education, affordable public colleges and universities, and for repair and maintenance of roads, bridges, and public transportation.”
That’s not all … advocates for a $15 an hour minimum wage are expected to descend on the State House en masse on October 13 for a day of testimony and action. Between Raise Up and related coalitions like Wage Action and the growing Fight for $15 front, throngs of people nationwide have built up gobs of bold momentum, which around here has meant uniting worker and religious groups, many of which have deemed the gradual hike up to an $11 hourly wage, approved last year by state lawmakers, to be painfully inadequate.
There are few topics in Boston that are more uncomfortable than homelessness. Especially as the weather cools, and especially since politicians at the state and city levels put in major efforts to get people into shelters. Nevertheless, those efforts aren’t always enough, and despite the work of volunteers and bureaucrats and selfless caseworkers, this city still lacks beds and critical services. On that note, and since they aren’t heard from as much as they should be, here’s a word from the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, which is having a One Year Late Day of Remembrance and Action on October 8 (starting at Boston City Hall, followed by a march to Beacon Hill) …
We are coming up on a year since Mayor Walsh and the Boston Public Health Commission condemned the bridge leading to Long Island, hastily shuttering the city’s largest homeless shelter and several vital stabilization and recovery programs for those seeking treatment for addiction. Since then, little has been done in the way of meaningful action from the city of Boston to remedy the harm they caused in closing the Island in such a haphazard [manner]. A new men‘s shelter was erected on Southampton Street, but still does not meet the demand. Woods Mullen has been transitioned into a female-only shelter, and also does not meet the demand for beds and [its] conditions are less than adequate. We are in the midst of an opioid epidemic, which has been deemed a State of Emergency in [Mass] since March of 2014, yet the City of Boston and [the state] haven’t replaced vital treatment programs that had been sited on the Island.
TIME FOR SOME ACTION
It’s important for impacted parties to be heard on issues like brutality, and to stand out in the street if necessary calling for accountability. In that theater, Boston will undoubtedly see direct actions in the next few months, especially as any number of student groups foment interest in the cause throughout the fall semester. In addition to demonstrations, however, is a legislative thrust screaming from multiple angles, many of which reflect approaches to dealing with police brutality that could bring needed changes soon. For a complete rundown of related bills pending on Beacon Hill, check masspolicereform.com. While you’re at it, stay tuned there for details on a day of action coming soon, as there is a lot to rally behind …
- There are bills pending that would provide legitimate checks in the event that undue force is used or there is an officer-involved death. One act, sponsored by House Rep. Evandro Carvalho of Boston, would establish special prosecutorial jurisdiction for the state attorney general in such sensitive cases—a critical function in a place like Boston, where the Suffolk County DA has proven that he is essentially unwilling to prosecute cops—while another bill by Senator Pat Jehlen of Somerville and House Rep. Mary Keefe of Worcester would “develop uniform protocols directing state police, municipal police departments and all other law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth to collect data concerning their officers’ and employees’ use of force.”
- A bill sponsored by Rep. Byron Rushing of Boston also focuses on data, in this case as its collection applies to the “fair treatment of drivers” at traffic stops. Under Rushing’s rule, drivers would be given the following information after being pulled over: “the reason for the stop; the date, time, and duration of the encounter; the street address or approximate location of the encounter; and the name and badge number of the officer initiating the stop.” As a kicker, “the receipt shall also include information about how to register commendations or complaints regarding the encounter.”
- House Rep. Denise Provost of Somerville wants police to seek approval from their town or city’s governing officials before procuring everything from drones to bayonets. As of now, departments can stock up on all their tanks, rifles, and newfangled sound canon technology without informing residents or pols.
All that, plus proposals for police to wear body cameras, for state cops to publish their “guidelines pertaining to the use of deadly force,” and for a police officer licensing process through which rogue cops can be held accountable.
Because in Massachusetts, where the average resident can get their driver’s license yanked statewide for running too many red lights, there are still no so-called Model Minimum State Standards for police ethics and conduct. Go figure.